Belfast Telegraph

EU’s £14m for border bridge at Narrow Water

By Linda Stewart

More than €17m (£13.8m) has been granted by the European Union towards building a cross-border bridge at Narrow Water.

Louth County Council said work on the €18.3m (£14.8m) bridge linking the Republic to Co Down — the first such cross-border link to be built since partition — is expected to start next year and must be completed in 2015.

The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) yesterday approved the funding, with €900,000 (£720,000) of Irish government funding already invested.

Project approval now depends on financial support from the Department of Finance & Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport in the Republic. They will be required to provide initial funding for the construction project and recoup funding from the EU.

The bridge will be sited at the scene of the infamous Narrow Water massacre in 1979, when 18 British soldiers were killed in an IRA double bomb attack.

The scheme was first proposed in the mid-1970s when the Troubles were at their height.

But it wasn’t until 2008 that Louth County Council hired Roughan O’Donovan Consulting Engineers to design a bridge in keeping with the outstanding natural beauty in the area. The same company designed the Boyne Bridge on the M1 near Drogheda.

The bridge will consist of a control tower and 195-metre single carriageway bridge across the Newry River tying into the existing A2 roundabout. The bridge crosses from Narrow Water to the Omeath Road at Cornamucklagh, near the village of Omeath, and the total length of the crossing will be approximately 620 metres.

It will be cable-stayed, meaning the deck will be hung by cables from the towers.

The drawbridge design will allow vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians to cross, while marine vessels can still access Victoria Lock and the Albert Basin in Newry.

It is hoped it will increase tourism, and promote economic development and job creation.

Planning permission has been granted by authorities on both sides of the border.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “There is no doubt that the bridge will be a game changer. It will be a great catalyst for generating cross-border tourism and developing business on both sides of the border.

“Significantly, it is the first cross-border bridge built since partition and in that sense it is a positive outcome of the Good Friday Agreement and a potent symbol of the new Ireland.”

Joan Martin, County Manager, Louth Local Authorities, said: “We’re thrilled to get the funding approval from the Special EU Programmes Body and will now work with our partners at East Border Region and Newry & Mourne District Council as well as the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that we move forwards without delay on commencing work on site.

“As well as the long-term benefits that the bridge will undoubtedly bring to the region, there will also be a considerable direct economic spin-off during construction of this project which will be the first cross-border structure of its kind to be built.”

SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said the Narrow Water Bridge will link the two communities of South Down and Co Louth and is in every sense a community bridge.

“The Narrow Water Bridge is a unique, iconic, sustainable and economically advantageous project. I commend the SEUPB for recognising this and for assisting the community in the delivery of this once in a lifetime economic opportunity for the South Down area,” she said.

“I now look forward to the next phase of the bridge project which will involve issues such as procurement of the construction of the Bridge. Naturally I look forward to the completion of this bridge and its use by the local community and by visitors throughout the island and further afield. Undoubtedly this bridge will open up access to the Mournes and St Patrick’s Country for many visitors.”

Factfile

Plan: A single carriageway drawbridge hung from cables and linking Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Location: Narrow Water — from Newry Road, Warrenpoint, to Cornamucklagh, Omeath.

Applicant: Louth County Council

Crossing length: Around 620 metres.

Tower heights: 90m and 37m.

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